“God shall arise, His enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate Him shall flee before Him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!”
These are just the first three verses of a longer psalm that contains many wonderful things. To begin, let me just make four observations concerning these opening verses. The first observation comes from the opening words, “God shall arise”.
Imagine that you were facing a life and death situation. In that moment you would seek out an audience with the wisest judge or the strongest king. And once you stood before Him you would plead your case to him. Then you would wait for a response. Every bit of your attention would be upon that person to see how they would react to your case. The response could come in the form of a verdict in which the judge or king would proclaim his verdict. But in this case, the psalmist says that God will arise from the throne and act to save. He will act personally to bring about the salvation of the righteous.
This is a major theme in this psalm. It is the LORD who saves! “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.” (19-20)
This makes me ask, “What will make God act to save? Ultimately God will act in these three verses for three ways. First, he will act against those who hate Him and who are His enemies. Secondly, He will act to save the righteous. He will act for their deliverance which will result in great joy. Thirdly, He will act to save for His glory. When He does this it will result in the exultation of God.
The second observation that is fun to see in these three verses is that all of the verbs are in the future tense. The psalmist is looking confidently for the day when God will arise and scatter the enemies. He looked forward to the day when God would deliver the righteous and they would rejoice.
The psalmist finds himself in a desperate situation and yet he is comforted greatly not in an immediate deliverance but in one that is promised to come. Often we may wonder if God is in the midst of our situation. We often gravitate towards despair, but the psalmist remembers the faithfulness of God in the past, knows that He is faithful in the current situation and that He will deliver him in the days ahead.
This is often a challenge for me. My parents grew up in a day when you could purchase things on a ‘lay-away’ program. If you did not have the resources to purchase an item you could have the store set it aside while you made payments over time. Eventually you would get to take it home. My generation is not that patient. We want things now. We don’t want to wait. This psalm can teach us the value of learning to wait in faith for the promises of God. It may be difficult for us to do but it is a real part of our Christian walk.
The third observation is that those who hate the Lord will flee from Him when He appears. This seems justifiable. The Lord is all powerful and they are not. The Lord is God and they are flesh and blood. He will come and rout the enemy and they will retreat in horror. But let me simply make this observation. Hate is a strong emotion. In America we see more and more that those who hate often speak the boldest and the loudest. They seem so strong and imposing when compared to the meek and mild mannered people.
But here we see that these people are cowardly in a way. When the very One whom they hate arrives they flee. They run away. Hate had convinced them that if they had the opportunity they would kill the Lord but when given the opportunity they were not even willing to be a martyr for the cause. Many today are so bold in their rants against the LORD; yet, one day they too will come face to face with the LORD and they will run away unless they are compelled to stand before Him.
But consider the righteous in verse three. They don’t run away; rather they come before Him in worship. Hatred is cowardly; love is bold. Hatred runs away; faith come too the Lord. Hatred makes many empty boasts; humility speaks properly and respectfully to the Lord. Therefore, let us love the Lord, respond in faith, and come before Him humbly.
The fourth observation in these three verses comes from verse three. It says, “But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” Let’s look at this in three ways and then ask ourselves if all three of these things are found in our lives.
First, notice that the righteous shall be glad. This is an obvious response to being delivered on that day. Let’s be honest, even a guilty man is found to be joyful when he is not convicted of his crime. He is joyful when the fate he fears is not realized. If someone payed off my car or my house I would be full of joy. But this joy must only be the foretaste of something greater if it is to be progressing in godliness.
The psalmist continues, “...they shall exult before God.” This reveals that their joy is directed at the proper person. It is a joy that looks to the Lord and it exults Him for His saving acts. This is an act of worship. Many want to claim a miracle and when they receive from the Lord an answer they fail to go before the Lord in worship. We must do this and then go one step farther.
The psalmist then says, “...they shall be jubilant with joy.” If you think that the joy we feel when we are first delivered is the greatest of all joys, we may need to consider that there is a fuller expression of joy to be had. Through this process the psalmist now is experiencing jubilant joy. When a parent hears word from the battlefield that the war has been won, there is joy. When their son comes home and greets them there will be jubilant joy. This is how it will be when we come to God and worship. This joy will progress to jubilant joy with all of the redeemed. In that moment, there is no hesitation and no reservation – only jubilant joy. For the enemy is gone, the fear is gone, the promise is fulfilled, and we stand in the presence of our redeemer.
Are these three things evident in our lives? Do we have joy at the answer to prayer? Does this turn to worship as we turn to the Lord in gratitude? Do we come together with the redeemed and experience jubilant joy as we consider the faithfulness of God?
We quoted Psalm 68:19 earlier. Notice what it says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” The psalmist is exulting in the Lord not simply because his circumstances have changed for the better. He says, “God is our salvation!” There is joy when our liberation comes. There is jubilant joy when we come to see and know that it is the Lord God who is our salvation. We look to Him and rejoice. We consider Him and we worship. We consider Him and we are moved to jubilant joy.
Amen, Let it be so.